life cycle

How can it be that

after so many years
all those miles
half a lifetime willingly paid over

I can still forget that

after so many hours
all those words
hollowed out by all the hiding

I can repair all that

after just a moment
stolen from reality
with this magical machine.

And I am thankful that

after each forgetting
it is there to remind me
and pick me up again.

Missed a couple of days on the bike this week owing to poor weather and work commitments. Felt awful, darkness closing in etc. Went for a ride yesterday and things got themselves back into some kind of balance. Can’t understand why that surprised me; or why I so easily forget that, very often, that’s all it takes. Yes, I’m obsessed, and should probably be worried that my mental state is so bound up in whether or not I’ve managed to get out today. But I am absolutely certain that the bike has saved me from seeking solace in things that would be a lot worse for me; and I am so grateful to it for finding me all those years ago. (The pic is my much-loved Brompton outside the church in La Chapelle-au-Mans, Burgundy, on a very hot day back in June.)

in mundo inter mundos

A drowsing acre of rough-cut grass
walled off from the waking world.
Beneath pale stones, splashed with flowers
the founding generations mingle,
one with their home ground,
as their crisply chiselled names
bookended with joy and mourning
slowly soften with the seasons.

Spinning down to this quiet corner
from the village on the hill –
the home I left long years ago –
I find myself among old friends
see more familiar faces here than there;
my past interred in ordered rows.
And so I turn back to the road;
my world between two worlds.

Out of here

Maybe I’m dreaming
and all this scheming, screaming
madness in the land
dwells only in my spinning mind
and one day I’ll awake to find
it’s washed away like footprints in the sand.

So cruel and uncaring;
I’m despairing as they’re tearing
everything apart.
They take and take and never give:
tell me how I am meant to live
like this, bereft in soul and sick at heart.

I’m done with all the hating
baiting, dissimulating
hopelessness and pain.
So now I’m getting out of here:
switch off, drop out and disappear
to seek my peace out on the road again.

driven out?

I thought I might
go for a ride;
a short, easy spin
to clear the head
remind legs, lungs and heart
what this is all about.

But now
this simple, innocent act
is made political
pitting me against
the full inchoate outraged weight
of hate and spite and bile;

a target painted on my back
fear following me like my shadow
and I wonder when and how and why
we found ourselves
heading down this road
and what could turn us round.

Coup de foudre

My days no longer play out as they should –
No water-bowl to fill, no wrapping warm
In winter coats to walk down to the wood –
A cheerless list of tasks I don’t perform.
I miss your warmth, your velvet fur, your eyes,
Rose-petal ears and pointy needle-nose,
Sounds and expressions. Now I realise
How much a dog takes with him when he goes.

The axis that my world revolved around.
A lightning-bolt that briefly touched the ground.

Viggo. 20 July 2009 – 27 January 2021.

Going dark

I am not
by nature
a quitter;

but I tell you now
I’m just about ready
to throw in the towel

when it comes
to what’s going on
in the world.

I’m done trying
to make sense
of events;

keeping pace
following the thread
seeing where any of this is going

and wondering whether
it’s me or Them
that’s finally gone insane.

No matter
how much
I see, hear, know

I’m no nearer
to understanding
or being able to change a thing:

They will do
what They will do
regardless of me and mine.

So at the risk
abandoning my post
I’m going dark

leaving Them to it
for a while
see if the sky falls in

and get back to the real work
the real world
They cannot touch or spoil.

A’ bheinn mhòr

These are my terms. I am. Have always been.
Foundation of all things; bones of the earth.
No number for the ages I have seen;
To ancient fires and ice I owe my birth.
I suffer you to stumble up my slopes
To brave my bogs and burns, my sudden squalls.
I will indulge the crampons, axes, ropes
With which you arm yourself to storm my walls.

But I will not assist or lend you aid
When storm clouds break upon you and the snow
Screams in. You own the choices you have made;
I stand impartial, neither friend nor foe.
And when the wind and wet conspire to tear
Your trembling fingers from their fragile hold
I do not weep, rejoice, laugh or despair;
Dispassionate, I watch events unfold.

And should you overcome all things, succeed
And stand upon my peak in victory
I offer no opinion on the deed:
Your gain and loss are all the same to me.
I have no truth, no answers. You will find
Them in yourself alone. I am the place
Where you may dare the darkness in your mind
And meet your strengths and frailties face to face.

All things must pass; and yet I shall endure.
The world may change, but I will always be.
When doubt and chaos reign, I still stand sure.
When truth is hard to find, remember me.


For Burns Night: inspired by our trip to the Scottish Highlands last year. Scotland’s mountains aren’t high by world standards but they’re rugged, remote and can be tricky to navigate; combine that with their notoriously fickle, often brutal weather and they’re definitely not to be trifled with. The image shows Ben Loyal, a magnificent Munro in the far north: the title is Scots Gaelic for ‘the great mountain’.

Vanishing act

It would be so easy now
to simply disappear:

just turn off
a couple of sockets,
rip a few wires out of the wall,
feign deafness when the telephone shrieks,
leave the computer stone-cold, silent
and go.

I need no one’s permission,
require no licence,
warrant, pass or explanation:

I have only to will it
make that choice
and I can be
entirely
unreachable
untraceable
fall right out
of time and knowledge
be nothing more
than a man on a bicycle
you pass, glimpse
and instantly forget.

And only the instinct
to survive
is stronger than
the temptation.

Not a rehearsal

Life
they say
is not a rehearsal.
And having given the matter
due dawn consideration
I am inclined to believe
they might be right.
After all
we don’t get a chance
to take it from the top
once more
with feeling;
no going back over
our errors, missteps
stumbled entrances, fumbled lines.
So I’ve always taken the cliché to mean
that life must, therefore
be a performance:
but who would willingly
take on the role;
saying our piece, making our moves
with little prospect of applause, just reward
or even a good review
for a run that only ever ends
one way.
No. On balance, Life is, I think,
more an audition:
each day we must take a deep breath
step into that spotlight
open our hearts
strut our stuff
reach down deep
give our all
in the hope that it will be
enough.
And some days
it is.
And some days
they’ll let us know.

Shepherd’s warning

Once, when young
I would have scanned this morning sky
And from its rose-and-copper conflagration
Taken counsel
Then a waterproof to work.

Now, and older
I gaze upon a fevered dawn
Alert to all the fires breaking out
And wonder if I am the only one
Who hears and heeds the warning.